Weather: Woke up to 11 degrees this morning, eventually warmed up to the low 40s
Location: LAT 37.194152, LONG -93.291305
Today we drove into Springfield. We could have just taken Interstate 44 straight for about 66 miles east into the city, but since we came that way from St. Louis, I wanted to take the back roads and see small town Missouri. So, we drove north to Jasper (population 941) and turned east on Rt. 37. After over an hour of seeing one cow farm after another, we were very happy to be finally arriving at our first stop in Springfield, The Fantastic Caverns.
Fantastic Caverns is the only cave in North America to offer a completely ride-through tour, which lasts 55 minutes and is held in a Jeep-drawn tram. The trams drive along the path left behind by an ancient underground river.
The cavern was discovered by John Knox and his hunting dog in 1862. Knox did not want the cave to be exploited by the Union or Confederate governments as a possible source of saltpeter, so he kept the cave’s existence quiet until 1867. Knox put an advertisement in the Springfield paper for someone to explore the cave, and it was first explored on February 14, 1867. On February 27, almost two weeks later, the Springfield Women’s Athletic Club explored the cave. These twelve ladies are considered the first explorers of the cave, since they carved their names into the rock as graffiti.
The cave was used as a speakeasy during the Prohibition years and hosted live music concerts during the 1950s and 1960s. Live audiences came to see the “Farmarama” show, which was nationally broadcast on NBC radio stations.
After the Cavern we drove over to the World’s Largest Fork, a 35-foot tall, 11-ton, stainless steel eating utensil stuck in the ground in front of an office building. The plaque says it signifies the home of The Food Channel. However, the building it is in front of is an advertising agency, Nobel & Associates.
We then drove over to the “Granddaddy” of all outdoor stores. Bass Pro Shops National headquarters. This 500,000 square foot store is the number one tourist destination in Missouri attracting four million visitors each year.
Inside the store is their restaurant Hemingway’s Blue Water Café. The buffet style lunch was really good but didn’t have the good stuff like the bacon wrapped duck poppers, buffalo, or alligator. However, the catfish was very good.
We left Springfield, and again wanting to take the back roads, we chose to drive Historic Rt. 66 back to Carthage. We hoped it would be better (less boring) than the earlier drive, but we were disappointed. There’s nothing significant on Rt. 66 between Springfield and Carthage except for about 10 miles outside of Carthage, in Avilla Missouri, there’s a painted building and a cool Post Office.
Oh well, tomorrow we plan on driving around Carthage where we know there is some cool Rt.66 attractions.